August 17, 2005

APA Calls for Reduction of Violence in Interactive Media Used by Children and Adolescents

Research shows playing violent video games increases aggressive behavior and decreases helpful behavior; learning critical evaluating skills may reduce negative effects

EDITORS NOTE: As of December 2012, the 2005 resolution on violence in video games and interactive media is under review. The APA Board of Directors plans to appoint a task force to review the literature published since the policy statement was adopted.

WASHINGTON—Based on an examination of the research that shows the negative influences of violence in interactive media on youth, the American Psychological Association (APA) today adopted a resolution recommending that all violence be reduced in video games and interactive media marketed to children and youth. Additionally, the APA also encourages parents, educators and health care providers to help youth make more informed choices about which games to play.

The policy decision, made by the APA Council of Representatives, was adopted at the recommendation of a special Committee on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media of the Media Psychology Division of APA, which reviewed the research indicating that exposure to violence in video games increases aggressive thoughts, aggressive behavior, and angry feelings among youth. In addition, this exposure reduces helpful behavior and increases physiological arousal in children and adolescents.

Research on media violence also revealed, that perpetrators go unpunished 73 percent of the time in all violent scenes. "Showing violent acts without consequences teach youth that violence is an effective means of resolving conflict. Whereas, seeing pain and suffering as a consequence can inhibit aggressive behavior", says psychologist Elizabeth Carll, PhD, co-chair of the Committee on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media.

Studies on learning also show that active participation may influence learning more than passive observation. "Violence in video games appear to have similar negative effects as viewing violence on TV, but may be more harmful because of the interactive nature of video games," says Dr. Elizabeth Carll, who is a private practitioner in New York and a past president of the Media Division of APA. "Playing video games involves practice, repetition, and being rewarded for numerous acts of violence, which may intensify the learning. This may also result in more realistic experiences which may potentially increase aggressive behavior," added Carll.

Teaching children how to view television critically helps them to differentiate between fantasy and reality, identify less with aggressive characters and helps children to better understand what they are watching. "Teaching critical viewing, also referred to as media literacy, can be helpful in reducing the negative effects of interactive media as well," says Dr. Dorothy Singer, co-chair of the Committee on Violence in Video Games and Interactive media, and a Senior Research Scientist at Yale University and Co-Director of the Yale Family Television Research and Consultation Center. "Media literacy programs have been successful in teaching children how to better understand what happens when someone gets hurt or killed on TV. Children end up not feeling as frightened and sad after witnessing these violent events", explained Singer.

Based on the findings, the APA recommends:
  • Teach media literacy to children so they will have the ability to critically evaluate interactive media.
  • Encourage the entertainment industry to link violent behaviors with negative social consequences.
  • Develop and disseminate a content-based rating system that accurately reflects the content of the video games and interactive media.
  • Developers of violent video games and interactive media address the issues that playing these games may increase aggressive thoughts and behaviors in children and adolescents and that these effects may potentially be greater than the effects of exposure to violent television and movies.
Committee on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media: Elizabeth Carll, PhD, and Dorothy Singer, EdD co-chairs; Craig Anderson, PhD, Brad Bushman, PhD, Karen Dill, PhD and Lilli Friedland, PhD.

For more information/interview contact: Dr. Elizabeth Carll at 917-941-5400 or 631-754-2424 or by E-mail or Dr. Dorothy Singer at 203-432-4565 or by E-mail.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.